This wasn't supposed to be a revenge game. Daryll Clark and his Penn State teammates made that clear in the days leading up to their rematch with Iowa Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
But it wasn't supposed to be a re-enactment, either, and that's pretty much what it turned into for the Nittany Lions: Fast start. Slow fade. Critical interception. Fourth-quarter collapse. Rain. Even the postgame breakdown had a familiar ring.
They made plays when they needed to, said a somber Clark after Penn State's 21-10 loss. We didn't [make them] when we needed to. That's why we lost tonight.
Clark had shouldered the blame for last season's 24-23 loss in Iowa City after an overthrown pass to Derrick Williams was intercepted, setting up the Hawkeyes' winning field goal. While his numbers Saturday were modest -- 12 completions on 32 attempts, 198 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions -- there were plenty of mitigating circumstances.
Clark's protection didn't always hold up, and he had some rotten luck, too, as the most damaging of his interceptions skipped off the hands of Evan Royster.
A lot of things went wrong tonight, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. There was a lot of pressure. There were a couple of tipped balls. ... I think [Clark] gave us everything he could possibly give us. I have no problem with his effort, no problem with most of the decisions he made. I think we could have done a better job coaching. We could do a better job up front, we could do a better job across the board. Offensively, we all had a hand in what happened. It wasn't one guy.
Clark could not have gotten off to a better start. He threw deep to Chaz Powell on the first play of the game and hit the receiver in stride for a 79-yard touchdown. It was the longest touchdown pass of his career.
On their next drive, the Lions held the ball for 20 plays with Clark going 5 for 8 for 39 yards, leading to a Colin Wagner field goal and a 10-0 lead.
But after that, Penn State's offense sputtered. The Nittany Lions gained 147 yards in the first quarter and 160 yards in the final three.
The critical blow, coming after defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn gave Iowa an 11-10 lead by returning a blocked punt for a touchdown, was a fourth-quarter interception that went off the hands of Royster right to linebacker Pat Angerer, who returned the ball 38 yards to set up Adam Robinson's clinching touchdown run.
Clark said the Hawkeyes likely sensed that things would start going their way with Penn State clinging to a five-point lead after losing momentum in the second quarter.
I guess they believed that something was bound to happen sooner or later that would just flip the whole game, he said. Our defense can only do so much. They did everything they could. Offensively, we didn't help them out.
All week long, players downplayed the revenge angle, insisting that Penn State wasn't out to repay the Hawkeyes for their upset last year in Iowa City.
That may have been the case, but revenge was clearly on the minds of some others. Before the game, on the replay screens above either end zone, a grainy, black-and-white video was shown of Daniel Murray's winning kick and the pandemonium that followed, making it look like a particularly heinous act that was being re-enacted in a true-crime TV show. The booing shook Beaver Stadium.
But in the end, the game's prelude only magnified the disappointment that hung like a cloud over the stadium afterward.
While fans were pouring dejectedly into the parking lots, white face paint streaming down their cheeks, Jay Paterno was talking to Clark in the locker room, trying to help him put the loss in perspective and refocus on the future. I told him, 'I have great faith in you. You're a great football player. You're as good a football player as there is anywhere in the country. You had a bad night. I haven't lost faith in you. Don't lose faith in us. We're going to move on from here.'
While clearly upset, Clark said he will be ready to move on when it's time to start preparing for this week's game at Illinois.
What we do after this will determine what type of football team we are, he said. We have a lot of football left.